Today I brought lunch to a bunch of hungry men, including two of my sons, who took a Saturday to pull their considerable talents and muscle together to build a very special tree house for a sweet little 5 year old girl, recovering from major surgery.
One of the easiest, most economical, filling, and yummy things to Make & Take to feed a crowd is bar-b-que pulled pork sandwiches! The sauce is so good, you really don’t need any condiments, but a spoonful of my Easy, Spicy Crunchy Asian Slaw on top adds extra deliciousness!
I like to use an even mixture of pork loin (which is the lean white meat cut of pork) and pork butt (which is darker, a little fattier and more tender). This recipe will easily feed 10 people, but I doubled the recipe today, and was able to cook the whole thing in my extra big crockpot — which yielded enough for 20. Just turn on your crock pot the night before and it will be ready to pull it apart in the morning; or start it in the morning and have dinner ready when you come home.
Easy Bar-B-Que Pulled Pork in a Crock Pot
2 – 3 lbs. pork loin
2 -3 lbs pork butt (with or without bone)
1 full head of fresh garlic, peeled, and rough chopped
2 t. Tony’s Chachere’s Seasoning (or your favorite Cajun Seasoning with Salt)
2 t. Grill Seasoning (or 1 1/2 t. salt, 1/2 t pepper)
2 T. Worcestershire Sauce
1 1/2 cups your favorite bottled B-B-Q Sauce (I like Sweet Baby Rays)
1/2 cup ready-made Italian Dressing, any kind
1 t. Tabasco sauce
1 envelope dry Lipton Onion Soup mix
1 cup water
2 T. brown sugar (if you prefer your sauce a little sweet)
Cut the pieces of pork into about 6 big pieces. Whisk the rest of the ingredients for the sauce into a big bowl. Pour half the sauce into the crock pot, add the cut pieces of pork arranging evenly, pour the rest of the sauce on top of the meat. Cook on high for 5 to 7 hours or until tender enough that when you pull at the meat with two forks it comes apart easily. When pork is tender, lift out the meat with tongs or two big spoons, and place in a big rectangle pan. Using two forks tear the meat into shreds. Pour the sauce from the crock pot over the meat and mix evening so that the light and dark meats are evenly combined. Taste and check seasonings, adjust to your taste. At this point you can serve it right away, or cover and refrigerate, then reheat in the oven (covered with foil) at 350 for about 20 minutes when you are ready to serve. Serve on your favorite buns or potato rolls with slaw, extra bottled BBQ sauce, sliced pickles and jalapenos.
(Becky, the Mama.)
What is it about being snowed in that turns even makes even the most anti-cooking folks fire up the oven and don an apron? Here’s a recipe that is not only easy to make, and scrumptious, but will make your house smell like Pure Love.
I know, I know… the last recipe I posted was an apple dessert, too. But as you read in that post, I had somehow purchased THREE huge bags of apples and so, forgive me, but since I am still up to my ears in apples…. here’s another fabulous apple recipe I created that used up the last of my surplus. You’ll take one bite and think, “Oh. My. Goodness. This tastes like my grandmother’s home-made apple dumplings.” (And if you didn’t have an Apple Dumpling-Baking-Granny, the Apple Dumplings at Cracker Barrel are a pretty close second.)
A few decades ago, my mother went through a spell of baking Apple Dumplings from a recipe in the red and white checked Better & Homes and Gardens Cookbook. They were delicious! People raved about them and begged for more. But they were also a LOT of trouble. For my taste they were also a little too sweet and there was too much pastry-to-apples ratio.
This recipe is ridiculously fast and easy and creates a just-right-sweet “cobbler” of apples that make their own “dumplin’ syrup” and is topped with just one flaky pastry crust (thank you Pillsbury for making this part simple, too). Serve warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream and you’ll be in Apple Dumplin’ Gang Heaven.
One hint: the only time-consuming part of this dish is peeling and chopping apples. To make this effort go faster, conscript every able-bodied adult and child over 8 years-old to come in the kitchen and peel at least 2 apples each, while you do the chopping. Promise them they will be sweetly rewarded for their labor.
Finally, a little bit of fun news from “First Magazine for Women” (you will often see this at grocery check-out counters). Last week the editor of the magazine gave a lovely review for our book, Nourished. Here’s a picture of the article:
As long as you are huddled up inside eating dumplings this week you might as well buy a copy of our funny, uplifting, practical book to cozy up and read as well. :) And our heart-felt thanks to those of you who have already read the book and perhaps posted a review on your blog or on Amazon or sent us a note or email. We are soooo thankful for your encouragement! Be sure to join us on our Facebook Fan Page, too, at We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook.
Apple Dumpling Cobbler
6 to 8 peeled, chopped apples (about teaspoon size pieces) to make about 6 cups total
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 small to medium fresh lemon
1/2 t. salt
1 T. flour
2 T. butter
Sugar and Cinnamon to sprinkle on top (about 1 T. sugar and 1 t. cinnamon, but just eyeball it to your liking)
Turn oven to 350 degrees
In a large mixing bowl put apples, brown and white sugars, flour, spices and salt. Mix thoroughly. Butter a 9 by 11 casserole pan and pour the apple mixture into it. Squeeze a fresh lemon over the top of the apples and then dot with butter. Place one Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust on top of the apples, tearing it and patching it (pinch pieces together) to create a rustic, “quilted-together” pastry crust as shown below. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Note that you just kind of loosely fold the edges and tuck them around the apples. I also cut a heart shape in the middle, though as you can see, I am not a pastry artist. No worries about it looking messy, it will come out delicious and beautiful.
Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden and flaky and apples pierce easily with a fork and the juices are golden brown and syrupy. Serve warm, using a big spoon to place in bowls, and top with ice cream.
(Becky, the Mama.)
We have all had times when our brain seems to get stuck in painful, upsetting thought loops. I’ve noticed this happens most often when there has been a deep loss (as in grief) or a slight or betrayal (perceived or real) in a significant relationship. Or if we feel wrongly accused and powerless to defend ourselves. Fear and worry can also kidnap us in a grip of terrorizing thought loops.
Often the brain goes back and forth in a ping-pong fashion, playing out imaginary scenarios or what we would say to someone — if only we could. Or how we wish things were as they once were, if only we could turn back the clock. Or how we could help or fix or cure… if only we were able to do so. Your body is in the world, but your mind is stuck in an alternate reality.
What can you do, today, to ease the pain in your brain?
I wrote of several techniques, in detail, that have proven helpful to many in our book Nourished, in a chapter titled “Nourishing the Brain in Pain.” If you were sitting at my kitchen table today and going through a rough time with a brain stuck on a Bad Thought Loop, here’s what I would share. (Based on a ton of research-based reading, good therapy and experimenting with what really worked for me.)
- Rock Your Soul. If you are in a state of exhaustion, overwhelm, upset, feeling triggered and perhaps shaky and unable to process, I’d urge you to do something physical that rocks your body back and forth, first. Get out on a porch swing, rock in a chair, talk a walk, swing your arms and head back and forth like rag doll. This technique works on adults the same way it works on a baby or child. We instinctively know to rock or swing a baby back and forth when it is upset. I won’t go into all the neurological reasons this helps, but trust me, any kind of rhythmic movement tends to release trauma.
- Healthy Distractions. Once calmer you can ask yourself, “Do I want to think about this situation right now, or can it wait until a better time?” If you don’t want to think about it right now, do a Healthy Distraction. Do something that is of great interest to you, something that absorbs your mind and focus. Or better yet, try to do or learn something brand new. This keeps the brain so busy it can’t ruminate. Take a painting class. Listen to an intriguing or uplifting Ted Talk for 20 minutes. Go to a brand new restaurant. Learn to tango. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Adopt a pet. Whatever sounds fun and absorbs your mind and/or body. In fact, it is a good idea to make a list of Healthy Distractions so that when you find yourself kidnapped by a painful series of thoughts, you have some ideas to try at your fingertips.
- Self-Questioning/Processing. If you are in a good spot to process and think, then grab a pen and paper and get to a quiet place. Notice the feeling that is currently most painful. Is it jealousy? Anger? Hurt? Grief? Now follow that feeling down to just one thought that is underneath it all. It is often a thought that begins with, “(name of person) should not have…” or “(name of person) should have…” or (Event) should not have happened…” Or perhaps it is a worry. “I am afraid that if I don’t get this job…. I will…” Or “I worry that if my adult child doesn’t stop using drugs he will….” Don’t edit yourself to sound nicer or more spiritual, just write down the thought that is under the pain.
- Play with the Painful Thought. Now, play with that thought a bit. Try saying the opposite of it. Or switching up the sentence in various ways. Do any of these new sentences speak to you? Sound as true or truer than the painful thought, but make you feel lighter, more hopeful or happy? For example, let’s say you are feeling hurt and angry and beneath these feelings is the thought, “My brother should have given me something for my birthday.” You can play with this sentence in several ways. Here are a few examples:
* “My brother should NOT have given me something for my birthday.” – Stay with this thought for a bit. Can you think of anything positive that came from your brother NOT giving you something for your birthday? Could this event, however painful to you now, be leading you to a new level of freedom in learning to give up expectations of others? And wouldn’t you be happier if you stopped giving others the power of disappointing you? What if you stopped expecting them to be like some perceived image of a “good brother” or a “good person” – and just accepted and loved them as they are? Does that make you breathe a little easier?
* “I should give me something for my birthday.” — Hmmm…this is a great turn-around for many of us. Are we asking someone else to do what we could be doing to love and appreciate ourselves? Maybe you need to treat yourself to exactly the sort of gift you’d love. Afterall, who knows better what you really want than YOU I know someone who even planned her own surprise party! Had a blast.
* “I should give my brother something for my birthday.” – Well, there is an interesting thought. What could you give your brother to celebrate your birthday? What about the gift of letting it go and not holding this perceived slight against him, and therefore freeing yourself as well from the painful state of resentment? Can you give the gift of generous forgiveness to him, and for your own benefit, too? Or maybe you send HIM a card telling him all the things you remember that are good about him.
* “I should let God give me something for my birthday.” What do you think God is wanting to give you that is better than any human being could give you today? Can you see it? Accept it? Be thankful for this gift? Is it a sunset? The taste of a just ripe mango? A baby’s laugh? Now that you aren’t focusing on what someone else should have done, it allows room to open your eyes to the gift God is handing to you today. Is there a verse of scripture or phrase from a song or hymn that comes to mind as you pray and ask God what He longs to give you?
5. Create a comforting image to go with the thought that lifts your mood. When we create a word picture the thought becomes “stickier” to the mind and it will give the new positive thought more power over the old, painful one. So, in the example above perhaps you visualize God handing you a sunset wrapped in a bow with your name written across the sky. Perhaps attached to the sunset is a verse of scripture chosen just for you – your “birthday card” from heaven. Whenever you start to think a thought leading to a painful loop (“my brother should have given me a present, he doesn’t love me, he is so unthoughtful” ) switch to this clear image of God handing you a gift from heaven. Or perhaps the image is of you giving your brother a gift of a card that says, “I love you without expecting anything in return.” Or an image of you lovingly and cheerfully buying yourself a bouquet of Gerber daisies or a pair of earrings or a new computer gadget or workshop tool.
6. Practice Self-Care. Ask yourself, without judgment, “What do I need right now?” And continue to ask this question as you regularly check in on yourself. This is how we heal bodies and brains after a slight or trauma or loss. The worse the painful event, the more you need to tend to and pamper yourself. Do you need to sit in the sunshine and do nothing at all for 30 minutes? Do you need to nap? A hike? To watch a silly comedy? Meet a caring friend for lunch? Go on a mini-vacation? Browse a bookstore? Go on a bike ride? Did you remember to eat well? Take your vitamins or supplements? Reading Matthew 6 and Philippians 4 and of course Psalm 23, are go-to comforting scriptures for me. (Try reading old familiar passages in a new version sometimes. It may awaken you to fresh thoughts.) Finally, practice the art of saying no, with grace and without guilt. Remember: you do not need to burn yourself out in order to be a warm presence for others.
If you have not figured it out by now, I have ADD. More specifically, I have what my friend and pioneer brain doctor, Dr. Daniel Amen, diagnosed as the Inattentive Type of ADD. (Press the Pause Button here for a minute: Thank you to the wonderful, brilliant, kind Dr. Amen for his review of our newest book, Nourished. His fabulous blurb adorns the cover!)
The Inattentive Type of ADD is less likely to be hyperactive. Which is certainly true for me. Put me in a hammock and tell me it’s time for a nap, and I am at my happiest.
Our types tend to be under-focused on things like to-do lists or anything smacking of organization; and over-focused on things we find interesting, absorbing, fun or creative. I can get so lost in a new idea for a book, blog topics, photography, recipes, decorating projects, researching the history of a vintage find, or helping a friend — that hours pass like minutes. I once got out of the bathtub one morning, wrapped in a towel with my hair dripping wet, sat down at the computer with an idea for a book chapter, then got totally lost in the flow. When I looked up, to my absolute shock — my kids were home from school, and I had not moved, dressed, or eaten for 7 hours.
We also tend to lose and forget things with incredible regularity. As my husband says, “It is a full-time job just being a Becky.”
One other quirk I have is thinking I am out of a particular grocery item, and then buying it repeatedly, ad nauseum. Until I suddenly realize I have 13 jars of mustard, 6 bottles of sesame oil and 5 heads of cauliflower. This week I discovered that I had unwittingly socked away FOUR big bags of apples. The benefit of these surprising surpluses is that it kicks in with my creative juices as I come up with a dozen creative ways to use up the overstocked item.
Today’s recipe comes courtesy of my apple surplus and daydreaming of a fresh apple cake made from an old church cookbook. I’d lost the cookbook somehow, but my former mother-in-law Beverly was kind enough to send it to me this week so I could recreate this moist and mouth-watering dessert. It calls for 4 cups of fresh apples, rough chopped in fairly large pieces, plus a cup of pecans. These goodies are bound together with a sweet and cinnamony cake batter. I made a few small tweaks to the original recipe, which I think enhances the flavor. You can use a bundt cake pan, as I did in the pictures shown, but you have to grease and flour it really well, and even so there is a good chance the top of the cake will stick here and there to the pan and you’ll have to patch it a bit. (As I did here:) It pops out much easier if you bake it in 2 bread pans, plus you can give one away to a friend or freeze it for later.
Besides being perfect for an afternoon snack, we also love this cake that is chocked full of apples and nuts for breakfast, with a couple of slices of turkey bacon and a cold glass of milk or hot coffee.
FRESH APPLE CAKE
4 cups 4 1/2 cups apples, peeled and coarsely chopped (leave some the size of a teaspoon)
1 3/4 cups sugar (I prefer raw sugar)
2 eggs, separated
3/4 cup canola or coconut oil or other healthy oil of your choice
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon cinnamon
l cup pecans or walnuts, broken into fairly big pieces
Mix chopped apples with sugar and let stand in a bowl.
Beat egg whites till stiff, add yolks and beat, add oil and mix well.
Combine sugared apples and oil-egg mixture. Mix well by hand.
Stir dry ingredients together.
Add dry ingredients and nuts to apple mixture.
Pour into VERY well-greased and floured Bundt pan or tube pan, or 2 bread pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for one hour,15 minutes. (Just one hour if you bake it in bread pans).
While cake is still warm to the touch, but cooled some, loosen the edges with a sharp knife. Turn over onto a plate and drizzle with the following glaze:
3 T. melted butter
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
Juice of 2 clementines, or 1 orange, or 1 lemon
Mix well in a small bowl with whisk or fork.
(Becky, the Mama)
Least you think that because I’ve co-authored a book on the subject of self-care that I somehow “have it all together” — let me hasten to assure you (before others start volunteering to do so on my behalf) that this is SO not the case. First, a visual: a couple of snapshots my daughter (and co-author Rachel) put together of my actual dishwasher after I loaded it (“drunk monkey style”) and one of Rachel’s dishwasher, the way she loads it (like “a lab scientist”).
Next, here is a little excerpt from Nourished, where I share a couple of my other potentially lethal flaws.
I’ve always found a measure of comfort in having lots of stuff around me, even when I sleep, like a pack rat’s nest.
I could list dozens of areas where I fight the tide of disorganization, but few have been as daunting as keeping pills, vitamins, and supplements in their bottles, something that unnerves both Rachel and Greg. We have several spots in the house where miscellaneous pills and supplements have spilled then mingled together, like jelly bean assortments. I always plan on sorting them out, one day, looking up the embedded numbers on the internet to figure out if a mystery pill is an Aspirin or Gingko or rogue cyanide. The other night Greg asked if I had a Tylenol in my bedside table. I opened the drawer and took a dubious look at the pharmaceutical collage rolling about and asked, “Are you feelin’ lucky?”
“Never mind,” he said. “I’m not brave enough for Vitamin Roulette tonight.”
He always double checks even when I give him a pill from a bottle, since the night I accidentally gave him a No Dose instead of a sleep aid—a night he recalls every moment of in vivid detail. My purse is another interesting place where pills and vitamins like to gather and do odd things. Rachel and Jackson were recently here visiting, and the adjustment to the altitude gave her a nasty migraine. “Do you have an Excedrin, Mom?” she asked as she rubbed her head.
“Just a minute,” I said, digging in my purse. “Ah ha! I do! Here you go.”
She took the pill, and a puzzled look crossed her face. “Mom, that’s a red M&M.”
“No, honey. See the E on the front? It’s ‘Excedrin.’”
“Mom, put on your reading glasses. See, you’ve got ‘the pill’ rotated the wrong way. Give it a quarter turn. See? It’s an M, and there’s a little chocolate showing where the red candy has melted in your purse, and is now melting in my hands.”
“My goodness, I’ve kept those three M&Ms in the zipper pocket of my purse for two months, sure they were pain killers. Whaddaya know?”
Besides learning that an “M” looks like an “E” when laid on its side, I have also discovered that if you put a few Tylenol PMs into a Ziploc bag and then the bag falls into a hotel sink , and then you accidentally turn on the faucet in the dark of night (and do not close said bag very well), in the morning you will have a blue Play-Doh-like substance that can also put you to sleep and cure a headache.
You might also ask me how I know that a fish oil capsule, warmed in the sun in the lining of a purse will leave it smelling like three day old tuna for weeks.
All this preamble to say, though I am much improved from my days as a teen and young mom—I still struggle. Organization is as sticky a subject as the console of my car.
If you are curious as to whether or not I ever found my Inner Organizer, you might enjoy grabbing a copy of Nourished and read “the rest of the story.”
“In the scope of a happy life, a messy desk or an overstuffed coat closet is a trivial thing, yet I find – and I hear from other people that they agree – that getting rid of clutter gives a disproportionate boost to happiness.“ Gretchen Rubin
During the writing of the book Nourished, with my daughter, Rachel, I experienced a long season of multiple crises and burn-out from chronic over-giving and over-doing. (Note to self: be careful what you write about or God will take you much deeper into the subject than you want to go!) But of course, it was in this very valley that I eventually grew stronger and a little wiser and learned something about compassion and joy no matter what. I shared with our readers all that I gleaned about how to nourish a “brain in pain” in that chapter — but I am still an eager student, curious as to why suffering (given some time) turns some folks heroic, yet makes other perpetual victims.
After watching the fascinating Ken Burns series on The Roosevelts this Fall, I began to read everything I could find on the lives of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. (I came to it late, but thanks to my husband’s lifelong interest in WW2 era, I have now caught the history bug in earnest.) Reading a good biography about flawed, complex, great men and women can be more inspiring than essays or devotionals. It is the difference between reading C.S. Lewis describe the four kinds of love versus reading A Grief Observed – the poignant, personal story of falling in love with, then losing, his beloved wife. One tells, one shows. One hits our brain, the other our heart. Opinions are observed, stories are felt.
Before polio struck FDR – at the very beginnings of his political career – he was wealthy, handsome, proud, narcissistic and aloof, even haughty. Spoiled by a doting mother. And in fact, if his pride had been left unchecked, his mother might have been the only person who could love him. However, after being struck down at the prime of his life, his athletic frame crippled over night, he changed. And thank goodness for our nation, he changed for the better. His compassion for other polio sufferers became legendary; his newfound empathy led to personal action. He befriended, helped and encouraged hundreds of fellow polio victims at the rehab-resort in Warm Springs, Georgia, and did not forget them once he was in the White House.
After Hitler began his first unspeakable extermination… burning houses, killing Jews and sending them to concentration camps, FDR was the ONLY world leader to publicly condemn this first wave of horrific crimes against humanity. I can’t help but wonder if his own personal understanding, from his experience with polio and the fight against prejudice of the physically-challenged, played a part in his courage to speak up for those who could not. His famous line, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” wasn’t just political rhetoric; it burst from his heart, echoing his personal hard-won victory over defeat and despair. The courage he gleaned from his very personal challenges, would inspired an entire nation with bravery in critical days.
We may never understand the reasons for suffering. But when seen from a broad view of history, I can see that those who allowed suffering to change them, for the better, instead of for the bitter…. became wiser, more compassionate, courageous. It clarified their spiritual purpose. People who allow themselves to be refined in the fire of suffering, eventually discover within themselves the stuff of which heroes are made.
And so what does this mean to us? To you and me, today? It means that when suffering is allowed to have its way in our lives, when we choose to let it soften and strengthen and expand us, instead of harden and weaken and shrink us…. something heroic happens within. In short, suffering can be the very thing that prepares us for, and increases our capacity for our greatest calling. What seems so random and crippling today, in the long view of your life, maybe the very experience you needed to fulfill your greatest purpose for being put on this earth.
”Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
James 1:2-4 The Message
I want to dedicate this blog to my dear friend, Michele Cushatt today, whose courage and spirit while battling cancer inspires me daily. She’s my hero of the hour!
A bit about our friendship is written in Nourished, and you will love Michele’s upcoming book (to be released in early March), also with Zondervan, titled Undone: A Story of Making Peace With An Unexpected Life)